As everybody knows, the Yankees have used the designated hitter primarily to preserve the careers of their veterans on the decline for years and it looks to stay that way in 2014, but the more and more I look at the roster, I'm having a difficult time figuring out who may be inserted there in the lineup.
The obvious option to put there is Derek Jeter, but I'm not so sure he can hold up next year. It would be irresponsible for the Yankees front office to rely on Jeter to be penciled into the lineup in every game next season. Well, every game with the option of having a designated hitter. I'm in the group that believes the team will have to sign a shortstop or be content with Brendan Ryan. The less Jeter does the better. Plus with his diminishing range the team would be better off with Ryan or someone else. Overall, I'd be surprised if Jeter played all of next season and I'd be shocked if he looked like he did in 2012.
The next option is Vernon Wells. Wells is essentially being paid nothing by the Yankees this up and coming season. Yet, he isn't exactly a bargain. Wells posted a -.8 fWAR in pinstripes last season. That should be enough to get Wells released from the team, especially if he costs little to the Yankees at all. For him to be a possible starter in the Yankees' lineup next year means trouble.
The position could serve a purpose to rest Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira. Though, that likely means Ichiro would be playing the outfield more often than he should be. The only way to prevent that would be if the team decides to sign an outfielder like Beltran or Choo or perhaps they retain Granderson somehow.
I'm lonely on this because I don't hear many bringing it up, but I'd like the Yankees to take a look at Mike Napoli. The Red Sox are protected because they offered him a qualifying offer which means they'll get a compensation pick from the Yankees if they were to sign him. The Yankees would also lose their first round pick.
I believe Napoli is one of the few power threats on the market this winter. Power is becoming more and more of a rarity in free agency. So Napoli does have demand. He'll probably be asking for a contract similar to the one he originally had last off-season (before the Red Sox looked into his hip condition) in Boston for 3 years $39 million. I think it would take a fourth year to get him in New York.
Napoli makes a lot of sense in that he and Teixeira could switch days being the designated hitter. Napoli also proved he can be a right handed power threat in Yankee Stadium. I went to a few games vs. Boston last season and he shushed the crowd more than a couple times. He hit .385 in 42 plate appearances at Yankee Stadium with 4 home runs and 14 RBI. His OBP was .429 and he slugged .744.
Pending on Robinson Cano signing, a middle of the order with Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Mike Napoli, and even Alfonso Soriano would solve any offensive problems the team once had. With offense like that the team could be able to ride with a platoon of Cervelli, Romine, and Murphy for the season at catcher instead of investing what could be five or six years of Brian McCann. The three of them could probably provide more value than the mix of designated hitters the team has available.
There aren't many options out there that allow the Yankees to keep their first round pick and if the team is going to vastly improve next season, it will have to be through free agency.